Similarly but differently, it seems unfair to expect the same level of work from the students I've taught at Salt Lake Community College, Mills College, The University of Utah, Roosevelt University, even when they're taking a course which is nominally the same, i.e., "Intermediate Composition." These schools are working at different levels, and it's disingenuous to pretend that they aren't. Should a student from SLCC be expected to write the same quality of analytical paper as a student at the U of C? With the same fluency of language, ease of argumentation, familiarity with a multiplicity of complexly-argued secondary sources? Generally, we don't seem to expect that.
The writing standards are different for different student populations. If they weren't, if we graded across the universities and colleges and community colleges evenly, then the average grade at the U of C would be an A, and the average grade at Utah might be a B, and the average grade at SLCC would be a C. That is patently not the way it currently works. Nor would grades be much use within the school if it were. Not to mention, the students at Utah and SLCC would revolt, and the students at the U of C would be underserved, since they wouldn't be getting useful evaluations of their progress.
Yet at the same time, I wonder whether I would feel differently if I taught math. Calculus is calculus, isn't it? At the end of the course, either you understand it or you don't. Writing is writing, isn't it? Is it?
To get a B in my course, you need to demonstrate a certain level of competency. To get an A in my course, you need to demonstrate a certain level of fluency. I expect different levels from my freshmen in intro writing, from my seniors in advanced, from my graduate students. That's fine. But different levels across universities -- that worries me. I don't see a way through it, though.
Am I making any sense?